This vote was on a motion to table (or kill) a set of several amendments offered by Tom Coburn, R-Okla., all of which sought to eliminate various “earmarks” (or members’ pet projects) in the underlying bill. The amendment was offered to the bill that funds transportation and housing programs in fiscal 2008.
Patty Murray, D-Wash., made a motion to table several of Coburn’s amendments that would delay, erase or reduce funding for:
• the “International Peace Garden” in Dunseith, N.D.;
• the Economic Development Initiative and Community Development Fund;
• a new baseball stadium in Billings, Montana; and
• a new wetlands center in Lake Charles, La.
Coburn is a frequent critic of the process of earmarking and often offers amendments to spending bills to eliminate them that are rarely successful. He said eliminating these pet projects would not amount to a lot of money, but still would “send a message to the American people about our priorities.”
“I would put forward to the body that these are not priorities right now. They are not priorities, when our true deficit this year is going to be about $400 billion. We are going to charge to it our kids. We have the largest deficit and out-of-compliance bridges in our history. Yet we are going to make a choice to spend money on these rather than higher priorities. The American people don’t have that luxury with their own budgets. We should not be taking that luxury with their money either,” Coburn said.
Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., who sponsored one of the earmarks, said all three of the projects have “great merit” and require “modest funding.” He said Coburn’s amendments to strike them are not worthy of consideration. Murray then moved to table all of Coburn’s amendments with a single vote.
By a vote of 63-32, the Senate agreed to table Coburn’s earmark amendments, effectively killing them. All but one Democrat present (Evan Bayh of Indiana) voted to kill the amendments. Of Republicans present, 31 voted against killing the amendments, and 16 voted for killing them. The end result was that the measure went forward with earmarks for a peace garden, wetlands center and a baseball stadium intact.